Protests in Egypt Enter 12th Day as Thousands Defy Overnight Curfew

As hundreds of Egyptians flood Tahrir Square Mubarak meets with ministers holding economic portfolios to discuss Egypt's loss of over $300 million a day during period of unrest.

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Anti-government protests entered Saturday their 12th straight day in Egypt, as solutions were being mulled to bring about a power shift to end the country's political paralysis.

Click here to read more Haaretz coverage of Egypt protests

Anti-government protesters during brief clashes with pro-government supporters in Talaat Harb square in downtown Cairo, Feb. 4, 2011. Credit: AP

Thousands of protesters slept in Cairo's central Tahrir Square, camping out in tents and defying a curfew, while many others streamed to the area in the morning, refusing to relent on their core demand that President Hosni Mubarak step down.

Meanwhile, Mubarak met with ministers holding economic portfolios and the head of the central bank, as concerns mounted over the country's economy.

One estimate said Egypt has been hemorrhaging over $300 million a day for the past week due to the unrest.

Newly appointed Finance Minister Samir Radwan and central bank Governor Farouq al-Oqda joined the ministers of oil, trade and social security for a meeting with the embattled Mubarak at the presidential palace in Cairo.

Mubarak was being advised by Egyptian intellectuals and foreign governments to allow for a "dignified exit," with one option being a shift of power to his newly appointed vice president, and later a group of technocrat ministers, while keeping his titular job as head of state.

An informal grouping of respected Egyptian intellectuals, dubbed locally the "wise men," made the proposal on Friday, saying they had opened a line of communication with Vice President Omar Suleiman, who was responding to their proposals.

The country's prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, doubted the idea would work, however, stressing that Mubarak would not stay beyond the end of his term in September. He urged dialogue between the different strands of Egyptian society.

Reports in the US media, including The New York Times, indicated that Western officials were also looking for a graceful departure for the president, who has ruled for nearly 30 years.

One suggestion being floated was that he move to his residence in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, far from the central seat of command in Cairo.

Another option was relocation to Germany for what would be called extended medical treatment - following the intensive care he has received in the European country in recent years.

In Tahrir Square, the Egyptian army, which has refrained from directly intervening in the protest, maintained a strong presence.

Similarly, soldiers were out in Alexandria, were protests were also set to take place again on Saturday, demanding democratic and economic reforms.

Hundreds of thousands took part across the country in protests on Friday, dubbed a "Day of Departure" for Mubarak by anti-government demonstrators. The events were mostly peaceful, following two days of heavy clashes between the demonstrators and groups supporting the president earlier in the week.

At least 5,000 people have been injured since unrest in Egypt began on January 25, said Health Minister Ahmed Farid. The United Nations estimates that over 300 have died, mostly last week, in heavy clashes with police



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